Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 3, Page 11
Tales told out of school

     About six months ago, a group of former Blue Hen athletes from
the 1930s and 1940s who helped launch Delaware's winning football
tradition began to meet informally over pizza to renew old ties and
swap sports stories.
     The group has no officers, no program and no agenda. What they do
share are memories of the Training House (a wooden dormitory
restricted to varsity team players), Delaware's first undefeated,
untied football team (1941) and the coach who inspired them, William
D. Murray.
     The Blue Hens had won only four football games in the two years
before Murray arrived in 1940. Athletically, the Blue Hens' major
challengers on the gridiron, the hardwood and the track were
Pennsylvania Military College (now Widener University) and West
Chester and Lebanon Valley colleges. Football players lived in the
Training House (now the site of Mechanical Hall and headquarters to
the Army ROTC), played on Frazer Field and, later, at 30th Street and
Governor Printz Boulevard in Wilmington, Del. Basketball games and
swim meets were held in Taylor Gymnasium (now Taylor Hall and home to
the art department). Football players participated on both the
offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
     Organizers of the gatherings are William D. Wendle, '42 and Ralph
M. Newman Jr., '44, both of Wilmington. Among those sharing memories
are Melvin "Ripper" Brooks, '42; Gerald P. "Doc" Doherty III, '48;
John W. Grundy, '54; Joseph A. Julian Jr., '41; Norman F. Lord, '42;
and Howard N. Viden, '40. Viden captained the 1939 team; Wendle was co-
captain with the late Wilmer "Lunk" Apsley in 1940; and Brooks co-
captained the 1941 team, the first unbeaten squad in Blue Hen history.
     Representing other sports are William L. Gerow, '41 and Hyman M.
Swartz, '38. Gerow, track star, soccer goalie and basketball player,
was described in 1936 as "Delaware's fastest human," and his state
records in the quarter and half mile stood for nearly two decades.
Swartz is one of the outstanding divers in Delaware's swim team
history. Like Gerow, he has been elected to the Delaware Sports Hall
of Fame, and his varsity letters were earned by an unusual combination
of diving and cheerleading. Newman also was a varsity swimmer.
     Lord, a longtime professor and coach at Washington and Lee
University, played end at Delaware. He recalled the excitement of a
trip to New Jersey with the Delaware frosh to play Penns Grove High
     "We went by bus to Chester and rode across the river on the
ferry. After the game, Mr. Doherty [coach and business manager of
athletics] gave each of us a dollar to buy dinner. That was really big
money to most of us."
     Brooks, who acquired the nickname "Ripper" when a coach said he
ran like Notre Dame's legendary Rip Miller, recalled a defensive play
rather than one of his slashing runs.
     "It was against P.M.C.," Brooks said, pointing to a photo in a
news clipping, yellow with age. "I intercepted a pass and my teammates
set up great blocking for the return. I'd have scored if I hadn't cut
back. I still wonder why I did that."
     Doherty, whose single game rushing record of 220 yards against
Gettysburg stood until 1994 when broken by fullback Daryl Brown,
remembers a slightly different version of a similar play. After taking
a lateral of an intercepted pass from William A. "Barney" Hancock, he
found a clear path to the goal line, but failed to score when he
tripped and fell at the 5-yard line.
     "We were playing West Chester," Doherty said, "and Glenn
Killinger and my Dad were good friends, because they used to coach
against each other in baseball. And, believe me, he never let me
forget that play."
     Grundy's memorable moment came when he blocked a punt in a 21-0
Delaware victory over Lebanon Valley.
     These glorious events occurred in the days when Delaware teams
were largely local. Brooks and Grundy were former Newark High School
Yellowjackets; Doherty spent two years at Archmere Academy in
Wilmington; Julian was a Wilmington High School product; and Lord was
from Milford. Viden was an out-of-stater from Glassboro, N.J.
                                    -Elbert Chance, Delaware '52, '59M